BRCA mutations are linked with an increased risk of several cancers, particularly breast and ovarian cancers. The role that these mutations play in uterine cancer risk is unclear.
Uterine cancer develops in the uterus, or womb. According to the
While anyone can get cancer, some factors can increase your risk. Genetic mutations, such as those in BRCA1 and BRCA2, are one risk factor.
This article reviews what we know about BRCA mutations and uterine cancer risk. We’ll also cover other risk factors for uterine cancer, symptoms to look out for, and more.
Types of uterine cancer
There are two types of uterine cancer:
- Endometrial cancer starts in the inner lining of the uterus. It’s the most common type of uterine cancer, and people typically have a positive outlook if it’s found early.
Uterine sarcomais rarer and starts in the muscular tissue of the uterus. These cancers are often aggressive and can be more difficult to treat.
Serous carcinoma is an uncommon but aggressive endometrial cancer.
Uterine cancer risk factors
There are several risk factors for uterine cancer. These include:
- older age
- a family history of uterine cancer
- a genetic syndrome that increases uterine cancer risk, such as Lynch syndrome
- a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
- endometrial hyperplasia
- factors that affect hormone levels, particularly estrogen levels, such as:
- having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or some types of ovarian tumors
- never having a pregnancy
- type 2 diabetes
- prior radiation therapy to your pelvic area
Screening tests help to find cancer early in people who have no signs or symptoms of cancer. When cancer is detected earlier, it’s easier to treat and your outlook is typically improved.
According to the
If you have a BRCA gene mutation, talk with a doctor about your individual risk for uterine cancer and whether any additional monitoring is needed.
The most common symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. This includes:
Other potential symptoms of uterine cancer are:
- pelvic or abdominal pain
- abdominal bloating
- changes in bowel or bladder habits
- loss of appetite
- unintended weight loss
Many of the symptoms above can be caused by conditions other than cancer. But it’s important to see a doctor if you have symptoms that are concerning, particularly if they’re severe, persistent, or recurring.
If a doctor suspects uterine cancer, they’ll order a transvaginal ultrasound. This is an imaging test in which the ultrasound probe is placed into your vagina in order to examine the uterus.
To confirm a diagnosis of uterine cancer, a tissue sample needs to be collected to check for cancer cells. If cancer is found, the sample can also be tested to further characterize the cancer. A tissue sample may be collected using:
After your diagnosis, your doctor will do other tests to check your overall health and to see how far your cancer has spread. This can involve blood tests and additional imaging tests such as:
According to the
BRCA mutations are most often linked to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but they can also increase the risk for
- fallopian tube cancer
- primary peritoneal cancer
- prostate cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- acute myeloid leukemia in children
Learn more about BRCA gene mutations here.
It’s still unclear how BRCA mutations affect uterine cancer risk. Some research suggests that BRCA mutations boost the risk of uterine cancer, particularly that of more uncommon, aggressive types.
But, other research hasn’t supported a link between BRCA mutations and uterine cancer. Overall, additional research is needed.
There’s no screening test for uterine cancer, but many cancers are found early due to symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding. Be sure to see a doctor if you’re having abnormal vaginal bleeding or other concerning symptoms.